Space Cowboys Review

Pensioners, controversially, are not allowed to head up missions beyond this planet. Damned be the rules, was presumably the response of legendary filmmaker Clint Eastwood. Space Cowboys sees four men not in their finest shape take on a mission to save the world. Relics from the Cold War found in space by relics from the planet Earth. But their ancient quest to fix satellites is based on the functionality of what these old pilots can learn not just from one another, but from pushing themselves to limits they never knew they had. Beyond the unnecessary need for this mission and for hiring four retired pilots, Space Cowboys at least has a reason for breaching reality and sending these men into space. 

Upstaged by a monkey in their glory days, these four old coots are wanting to prove themselves truer than the ape that bested them. Mary-Ann the monkey does appear to be their driving force for these four men wishing for a return to space travel, along with burning resentments that have lingered well beyond their formative years. Donald Sutherland, James Garner, Eastwood and Tommy Lee Jones make for quite a strong group of names, but their chemistry with one another and their performances as individuals are neither inspired or earnest. They squabble and bicker with all the energy expected of a retirement home gathering, but individually, in the first act, they are presented as gruff heroes that never reached their potential. 

That is the grand vision and aim Eastwood wishes to carry. Men who served their country, but were forgotten for their lack of unique heroism. They did not save the world, stop a catastrophe. They existed and worked hard. Eastwood grapples with the idea that, quite literally, reaching for the stars should be the aim of every patriot. Hell, every person. That much is an agreeable meaning for Space Cowboys to string along. James Cromwell embodies what Eastwood’s Frank Corvin would, at the very least, want to be. Successful, still working within the field, yet slightly higher on the food chain than him. How they are to meet the physical requirements of the fittest astronauts working is beyond the pale, yet they are allowed to thrive and die in space through sheer happenstance, the magic of moviemaking protects them from failure.  

Eastwood and his cast bring to life the very patriotism that they are surely moved by. Space Cowboys is the finest rendition of Eastwood’s love for the service of ordinary heroes, but even then, his direction still leaves much to be desired. A fine drama that expands its love for the leading group not through character dynamics, but dialogue that reigns in all the usual tropes of the action-oriented drama. There is no action, just the inference of such. Hard-hitting bosses working with the rebels of days gone by, it all comes together within Space Cowboys as a relatively amicable piece. However aimless it may be, Eastwood conjures up a very broad message for late-game patriots to sink their teeth into. Well, dentures into. Because that is the audience Space Cowboys will surely appeal to. Those that remember the stunning realities of the space race and when the first men made it there, and how much it means to them that men of their age could still, technically, do it.  

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